Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Silent Path

During the past four summers 2012-15, I have done Cross-Country Walks. More accurately, they might be called Cross-Parts-of-the-Country Walks. During and after them, I have blogged here On the Road Again. 

While I attempted no Walk this summer, I did decide in the past couple of months to set out on a year of Silence. The next calendar year might be considered one of No Walk, No Talk. 

But, that might not be totally true as I will continue walking the countryside, mostly along highways and the Musselshell River, near my current residence in Harlowton MT. It was only a few weeks ago that I discovered a wonderful place to walk to the northeast of town. Taking one route or the other by way of Highway 191 North, I get glorious views of a number of mountain ranges of which the Crazies are the most absorbing. The distant mountains backgrounding the Big Sky Montana prairies makes for some breathtaking moments.

A photo of the Crazies - south of Harlowton - from 2012 Walk

Well, walking is secondary this year especially as I have determined to do a 
Year of Silence. 

“What? You don’t mean it. Maybe a week or a month. But, not a year! You must be crazy!”

Those remarks were not all from the same person. I ran a few together, leaving out a few others, some of which were more worrisome.

The idea of silence seems to be offensive to some and scary to others. Some might think it unusual for a friendly, conversational sort as I can be. While I grew up a shy introvert, the last time I took the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test I came out 50-50 Introvert vs Extrovert.

Sometimes, I find myself too out-there, verbal and mouthy. A good share of the times I have gotten myself in trouble, my mouth has been a prime contributor.

There are numbers of contributing forces to this silent venture of which I will certainly mention in later posts. But, there are also numerous potential benefits which I may gather:

• Listening better. Rather than getting ready to jump into a conversation with comment.

• Being present and positive in presence only.

• Silencing the mouth tends eventually to silence the mind.

• Slowing down the pace of things in general.

• Developing the capacity to hear the still, small voice.

A year from now I will have some sense as to whether I have accomplished any of these aspirations and possibilities.

In the meantime, I will put up a post every month or so to share reflections on my Silent Path.

Share comments below or send to theportableschool at gmail dot com.

Many good wishes along the way, Robert

Friday, April 1, 2016

Presidential Politics - The Great Perennials: Guess Who Is Next?

The Presidential campaign has been ongoing for many months and has several more to run. The choices are slimming down it seems to two - maybe more. Then, what?

What will we have? A new president. But we may well have much of the same circling, squabbling chicane (the French might say) in Washington DC. Much as legislators and lawyers seem to do most everywhere.

Not, that we have not had choices. I can’t help but wonder if maybe we have allowed to pass by too many choices, some of whom might have been much better than the nominated and elected ones over the generations.

Think for a moment with me about the also-rans and the perennials at the ballot box?

Consider if you wish -

William Jennings Bryan (1860 to 1925) was a regular on the stump in his day. He began as a Congressman from Nebraska, but had a great taste for the Presidency. He ran three times as the nominee of the Democratic and Populist parties in 1896, 1900, and 1908.  WJB was a man of the people without doubt. A Populist, Popocrat, a Fundamentalist Pope (said HL Mencken), the Great Commoner, a Social Gospeler. Eventually, he settled for Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson.

William Jennings Bryan is renowned for so many things. From developing the first semblance of a modern presidential campaign to holding a vision of hope for the common and forgotten man to speaking and traveling the country unceasingly. As The Christian Liberal, Bryan mixed and re-mixed God and politics in over the course of 40 years of his public life. He is remembered by some for his Cross of Gold and Crown of Thorns speech at the Democratic National Convention of 1896. But, Bryan is possibly best known for his participation in the Scopes Monkey Trial which was immortalized in the movie Inherit the Wind starring Spencer Tracy. 


Eugene Debs (1855 to 1926) was a union leader and founder of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies). He ran five times for the Socialist Party as its candidate for President. He never got close to the White House but he did become the best known socialist in America.

Debs helped to motivate the left wing of American society in opposition to corporations and to World War I. He has been honored for his work in the labor movements and for his compassion to average workers toward socialistic improvements without large government interventions.

Harold Stassen (1907 to 2001) beats all candidates over the years for desire, persistence and effort towards the US Presidency. He is best known as THE Perennial Candidate. After being Governor of Minnesota and President of the University of Pennsylvania, he put his sights on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC.

Stassen sought the nomination of the Republican Party on nine different occasions: 1944, 1948, 1952, 1964, 1968, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992. He supposedly was still campaigning seriously for President in the year 2000 when he was in his nineties and within a year of his death. [Interestingly, I find no mention of what he was promoting in his candidacies, other than himself.]

Ron Paul (born 1935) has been the latest perennial candidate, running twice as a Republican and once as the nominee of the Libertarian Party in the 1988 presidential election.

Paul is known as a physician, author and politician. The Texan represented two different districts for 24 years in the US House of Representatives. He has been a firm critic of the Federal Reserve, tax policies, the military-industrial complex, and the War on Drugs among other governmental interventions. Less Government has been Dr. No's continuing theme. Nearing the age of 80, he has backed away from presidential campaigning to allow his son Rand Paul to carry on some of his efforts.

On the lighter side of things, you must remember:
Pat Paulsen (1927 to 1997) campaigned frequently for the Presidency. Paulsen was a comedian, not a politician. But many in Washington seem to fit that description.

Paulsen was a regular on the Smothers Brothers television show in the 70s. But his taste for the Presidency persisted in campaigns of 1968, 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992, and 1996. His message may have been garbled, but he got plenty of laughs along the way as well as some protest votes.

In a likewise light, but wholesome vein Winston Pooh assures us that he will be a persistent and perennial candidate for the US Presidency and American hearts and minds.

The photo above was taken on our first campaign trip from Arizona to Montana. Mr. Pooh collected a modest number of committed, many of them will only be legal many years from now as the younger folks grow up.

His platform is about friends and family taking care rather than relying on government and grants. Take time - not money - to be your Brother's Keeper and help yourself along the way.

Winston (as in Churchill) Pooh looks for the sweeter simpler life.


How about you?

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Photoblog 2015 - Part 3

First spotting the sign for the oncoming state is always a bit of a thrill.
I had ridden on the back of a pickup passing from Arizona into Utah.
Utah to Wyoming was on foot.
Pooh and I were just cutting across the southwestern corner of Wyoming into Idaho,
so the next chapter was looking to be fairly quick.

I have had but very rare interactions with motorcyclists.
But on this trip, I had two encounters (one noted in a recent blog).
It had been a rainy morning when these folks stopped to visit.
Roy and Lisa quickly said Hello, 
we traded photos and went on our separate ways.
Pooh and I were glad to walk,
am sure Roy and Lisa preferred their move of transport.

The two young fellows were circling around on an ATV one day
and eventually stopped to visit.
Gage and Hunter live near Georgetown, Idaho.
We had a short talk and I got another good photo.

 This shot was taken on one of the last walking days of 2015.
Speaks for itself.

My last "campout" of 2015 was on the Jefferson Hills Golf Course north of Rigby, Utah. 
Not much for hills, but pretty country.
Be careful of extra careful of sprinklers if you ever decide to nap on a golf course.

Leave comments below or send to theportableschool at gmail dot com.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Photoblog 2015 - Part 1

I met this impressive young man working at a convenience mart in Blanding.
He had left Fort Defiance and was working,
raising a family and going to school.
He impressed me with his work ethic. I wish he had impressed me with his name.
I salute him nonetheless.

Mark Bradford found me swept up with just a little rain the next morning.
He stopped and lifted me to Monticello.
It was a Saturday, but he was still working two jobs
one for the county, and the other for himself.
Thanks Mark.

I was walking down a highway grade toward Moab
when Anthony - once from the East, presently from Salt Lake -
stopped to visit and share some treats for the road.
I hear from Anthony every once in a while.

I forgot their names as soon as I got out of their car.
Smiling, friendly teachers from Alberta
accidentally "ran into me" while turning back to Moab.
We had a great visit on the way to town, said goodbye,
and I lost their names.
Forgive me and thank you.

No, it isn't Demi Moore.
But, a young woman who works at a bike shop,
saw me passing by and asked about my endeavor.
Then, I asked for a photo.

I had a friendly visit with John Ryan, high school principal in Connecticut,
while he waited in a parking lot in Moab for his family to appear.
Good looking bunch.
Wish we had teachers like when I was a youngster.

Consult earlier blogs for more photos.
Email theportableschool at gmail dot com with comments or post below.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Photoblog 2015 - Part 2

This photo was taken early on my walk around Round Rock in Arizona.
A beautiful but dry and daunting place. 
Great pictures to be taken in the area.

Jeramey and Jason picked me up on the north side of Vernal Utah.
They were heading for a little vacation in Flaming Gorge -
as they kindly gave me a ride up the road.
One was an insurance man, the other a real estate agent.
Thanks for the lift, fellow.

Here is the Flaming Gorge Canyon, a beautiful spot on the route.
I spent the previous night under pine trees beside the road.

Morgan Beal and wife, Nicole. 
They and children and ranch hands were moving cattle to graze around the Canyon.
I got my first ride in a horse trailer thanks to the Beals
and few more miles up the road closer to Wyoming.

The Brownings - prior residents of Salt Lake - own and run 
They were kind and helpful to a traveler like me.
The food was good and modestly priced,
the motel room was very inexpensive.
I highly recommend this place and their service.  
Thank you very much.

Consult earlier blogs for more photos.
Email theportableschool at gmail dot com with comments or post below.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

At The Junction

 I wandered into the “Junction” around noon one day. It was after a wet, rainy night and a long walk with much of it in the dark.

The map gave little clue what might be found at the junction. The only person I encountered en route wasn’t sure what I might find there. He apparently didn’t pay much attention when he passed through hitchhiking to the south. There was an establishment at the junction but he wasn’t sure if it was open.

Well, praise be! The one and only business was open after all. Crossing under the Interstate, Pooh and I found a place to get watered and rested for an hour or two. Or so we thought.

Pooh began the rest while I entered the convenience mart looking for some refreshment. I quickly noticed that a good portion of the merchandise was not priced. I also noticed that customers didn’t seem to pay much attention. They just seemed to buy what they needed or wanted. Credit cards seem to induce people to act that way. I bought a few items which had prices marked at the same time I took up conversation with Gary, the manager.

In his fifties, Gary is a bespectacled man wearing a ball cap and orange shirt as well as a graying beard and an occasional smile. He told me he was dealing with a neuropathy - nerve problem - which affected his legs. He seemed a little gruff and testy at time. But, his story eventually explained some of the exterior.

Nonetheless, Gary took a bit of getting used to, especially for a fellow who asks questions. Still he responded to most of my queries and engaged more and more in conversation. I got to know Gary slowly over the coming hours.

To begin, I discovered he was from Detroit, had been a housepainter (some commonality), and had taken his present job at Papa Joe’s a couple years back. A big change and maybe a relief from his recent endeavors. Gary worked long hours and more than full time, but there wasn’t much else to do at the crossing which didn’t even have a post office. 

There wasn’t a house in sight, just a couple commercial buildings and parking lots. The building next door had been a restaurant off and on. On fairly recently, then off both during Gary’s tenure. The food was apparently good enough. But, the owner and the manager didn’t see eye to eye and the venture closed within months. I have to suspect that, like lots of places these days, getting reliable and persistent help may have added to the problem.

Then too, it seemed that the owner had unusual ideas about running his businesses. Besides not marking much of his merchandise, there was another sign of his commercial attitudes. Gary eventually pointed out to me - since I was walking I would not likely have noticed - that gas at the tanks in front of the convenience were priced at nigh on to $5.00 a gallon. The junction was in the middle of nowhere with many miles to the next stop in most directions. So, travelers had to pay the freight to get to the next gas pump.


My intentions were to break at the corner until late afternoon when things cooled before heading on with the trek. So, I went outside and leaned in the shade next to Pooh against the wall of the former restaurant.

That did not last long. I returned to Gary with the idea to clean up his parking lots a bit. He didn’t think much of that idea, but asked if I would mind clearing out the area around the dumpster in back of the mart.

I said, “Sure.” I took some plastic bags proffered by Gary and went to work.

I could have had job security if Gary had let me have charge. But, I contented myself with tidying mostly as he suggested. I filled several bags with trash and threw larger items directly into the dumpster. There was much more that might have been done, but Gary was happy with my contribution.

It seems that I hadn’t even finished the trash duty before my new friend said, “I will give you a ride to the next town, if you are still here at closing.”

Well, I was happy to accept such an offer. So, we would be staying until closing. I assumed that would be around 10, but it turned out to be quite a bit later.

I can’t quite remember where all the time went, since the stay at the Junction was for well over 12 hours. I do believe I returned to trash duty and tidied up some more. There was nothing for scenery or places to visit. Just the desert and highways in all directions. Oh, there were railroad tracks behind the shop, but I don’t remember any traffic.

By evening, Gary announced that he would drive me to the next town after the next town when the day was done. Well, there was further inducement to stay on at the Junction.

As the darkness came on, I spent more time inside the mart. Business seemed fairly steady. People came and went. Put gas in their tanks and bought food for their stomachs.

I found more jobs in the shop as Gary slowly prepared to close. While he did paperwork, etc, I volunteered to mop the floors, clean the bathrooms and fill the pop machines with ice. Gary showed me what to do, and I did it acceptably well.

The little jobs continued and the night moved into the next morning. Gary was to be off duty for a day or two and needed to take care of extra chores.

It was almost 2:00 in the morning when we lit out. By that time, Gary seemed so happy for the company and the help he said he would drive to a distant town on my route and then turn east, then make a loop back to the Junction as an outing for himself.

The vehicle was an old van parked in front. Weather-beaten and aged, but apparently - and hopefully - trustworthy. The passenger seat was loaded, so Gary told me to get in back where I reclined on a mattress. Maybe the van was Gary’s home after work hours. I never thought to ask about his residence.

Ensconced - so to speak - in the rear of the van on the mattress, I asked questions and listened Gary’s stories for the next few hours.

And, I got an earful. Much of which I quickly forgot. Gary’s story was a harsh one of growing up in Detroit with two brothers. Gary’s mother died when he was young and his relationship with his father went from bad to worse over the years. I know not on what side of town he was raised, but he soon enough fell in with ask tough crowd and got on the wrong side of the law.

Somehow, he managed an out by joining the US Army. But, that hardly worked and Gary was absent without leave for a long time for which he had to make recompense. (I have lost much of the story from its telling in the dark of night on the highway as he talked and I cranked my head to listen while wanting to sleep.)

My fellow traveler lost both of his brothers as the result of violence in their early adult years. Fortunately, Gary pulled himself up and out of trouble over time. Took on respectable jobs and gravitated to the West.

Along the way, he had many experiences hitchhiking into the Rocky Mountains and the Far West many years ago. He told me of thumbing with boxes and boxes at his side. People picked him up and got him up - or down - the road. Just like he was doing for me.

I have been fortunate for numbers of former hitchhikers of the past who have seen me on the road and spontaneously volunteered to assist my venture or adventure. “It takes one to know one.” Or at least it helps.

Anyway, the early morning excursion passed on. Halfway up the road, we stopped for gas and refreshments at a relatively new, almost sparkling convenience station. Gary paid for the gas, I paid for breakfast. Then, we hit the road again as conversation waned and I eventually took a nap.

Gary persisted at the wheel no worse for the wear and dropped me off 200+ miles toward Montana. I began the next leg of the journey in one of the larger towns in that part of the desert while Gary turned to the east on a little excursion. Pooh and I stepped out to the north after but a few minutes to get oriented to the town and the map. Almost of a sudden, we had covered a large chunk of our trek and Wyoming was then not too far up the road.

I have been in touch with Gary three times. I sent him a postcard and later a copy of my Montana book. Then, we had a brief face-to-face visit on a quick car trip back to Arizona in September.

I never know whom I will encounter on my travels. Almost without fail, I have met the best of people and they have treated with kindness and respect and generosity.

Gary is one of those friendly Americans. My hat is off to Gary and the millions like him.

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